Home Community Violins of Hope tells many stories of the Holocaust

Violins of Hope tells many stories of the Holocaust

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By Skip Kozakewicz
Reflector Editor

Violins of Hope is now in the Mid-Atlantic Region for the first time – until Oct. 24. It features a collection of 57 restored violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust.

These inspirational string instruments have survived concentration camps and long journeys to share stories of redemption, resilience, and the legacy of Jewish musicians.

Several kick-off events were held Aug. 3-5 at the Virginia Holocaust Museum where seven violins are on display as part of its amazing exhibit. Violins from the collection also are on exhibit at two other locations in Richmond: the Virginia Museum of History & Culture and the Black History Museum. Each museum showcases different violins with different stories and backgrounds.

The 57 violins in Richmond were recovered and then restored by Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli violin shop owner and master craftsman, who lost 400 family members in the Holocaust.

Avshi Weinstein, Amnon Weinstein’s son, is in Richmond for the kick-off events and traveled to Richmond to accompany the violins that were packed in special protective cases. He spoke at the three events and gave local news media interviews on Aug. 3. The other events at the VHM included a V.I.P. Reception on Aug. 4 and a special Community Concert on Aug. 5.  He spoke at these events also.

In a special news media briefing on Aug. 3, Avshi Weinstein, who also is a violin maker, said the violins are built off of a collection of violins his grandfather had bought, which grew when his father began to outsource and ask people if they had instruments from the time period.

“It’s a very beautiful exhibition and to also have concerts at the same time here in Richmond. The concerts and lecture are a great opportunity to learn more about the stories.”

He noted that he believes it’s a better way to teach about the Holocaust. “The problem is when you present the Holocaust in school, they go through the numbers, which are overwhelming. But when we go through the single stories of different people, it relates a little bit more. In the end, we’re talking about individuals.”

He said there are likely thousands of other violins that were played by people in that time frame that have not been located by his father. The search continues.

VHM Executive Director Samuel Asher noted, “All of the violins are prized possessions and all are different. They each tell a different story. These are amazing stories. These violins have previously traveled to many other places in the U.S. and different parts of the world, and I am excited to have them in Richmond. This exhibit has been in the planning for over three years in Richmond, and I am sorry we had to delay our exhibit due to the pandemic.”

He continued, “I am pleased we have a great collaboration with our other museum and Richmond Symphony partners. Each violin has a separate story. These violins have been brought back to life and are a symbol to those who played them in the Holocaust.”

Dr. Roger Loria, a Holocaust Survivor, also spoke at events and shared the story of his survival during the Holocaust while facing the horrors of fleeing from the Nazis. He outlived all of the family on his father’s side who have the largest mass grave of a single family in Poland, and some of his family has no markers or graves. Loria and his mother eventually made it to Switzerland from hiding in France and after the war, the six-year old lived in an orphanage with 100 children in Antwerp, Belgium. They were later taken to Israel, and when they arrived at the port of Haifa, Israel’s national anthem “Hatikvah” was played.

“The meaning of “Hatikvah” is hope,” he noted, “and that hope permeated us all the way to our bones for the first time.” He compared the symbol of hope in “Hatikvah” to the violins played by individuals in concentration camps and other places. “Violins of Hope” presents the stories of hope by so many.”

In addition, the stories of the violins will be brought to life in concerts and their stories will be shared in lectures and various educational programs.

Concert: Sept. 9

A special concert by the Richmond Symphony on Thursday, Sept. 9, at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 823 Cathedral Place,, Richmond, 7:30 p.m., will be a featured event during the exhibit’s run in Richmond.

Members of the Richmond Symphony will be playing some of the Violins of Hope during the concert.

Violin maker, Avshi Weinstein, will join as a special guest.

Information about tickets will be posted soon on violinsofhoperva.com.

Concert: Sept. 10

Another concert by the Richmond Symphony is set for Sept. 10, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 6 p.m., 9505 Gayton Road, Henrico.  Select violins from this impactful exhibit will be played by members of the Richmond Symphony. Violin maker, Avshi Weinstein, will join as a special guest.

Information about tickets will be posted soon on violinsofhoperva.com.

Additional Concerts

Sept. 26 – Weinstein JCC, “Stories and Strings, 3 p.m. (See article in the Weinstein JCC section for details and ticket information.)

Oct. 6 – Virginia Arts Festival with the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, 7:30 p.m. This event is at the Johnson Theater at Norfolk Academy.

Oct. 17 – Congregation Beth Ahabah, Richmond, 3 p.m.

Oct. 24 – Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

Visit violinsofhoperva.com for more details. Ticket information will be available soon.

A primary goal of Violins of Hope is to initiate deeper, more meaningful conversations about tolerance and social justice, along with educating people about the horrors of the Holocaust.

In addition to hosting the exhibit’s first appearance in the Mid-Atlantic region, Violins of Hope Richmond represents the first time that three museums have partnered with the local symphony to host the exhibit and the first time that a Black history museum has been a partner for the exhibit. No other location in the U.S. has held the exhibit for 12 weeks, giving Richmond yet another reason to claim bragging rights.

For example, The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia is planning to highlight the role of jazz music in Virginia using Violins of Hope instruments.

For more information about the 12-week exhibit, concerts, and community conversations, please visit: www.violinsofhoperva.com.

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